First loans for businesses that don’t have other federal aid
            In her May 19 press conference, Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero along with Melanie Mendiola and Artemio “Ricky” Hernandez, CEO and deputy administrator respectively of the Guam Economic Development Authority, announced details of a $20 million grant program to assist small businesses impacted by COVID-19. The grant is funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act — or CARES Act — and will be administered by GEDA.

            Under the program, businesses must have suffered at least a 25% reduction in average monthly receipts during the state of public health emergency. The grant amounts are capped at $30,000.

            To assist the most vulnerable small businesses first, the program will be administered in two rounds, the first of which will be offered to businesses with gross receipts of $500,000 or less that have not yet received assistance under other federal programs. The second round will be offered to businesses with $1.5 million or less regardless of whether they have received assistance from other programs. GEDA projects it will take about three to five days for businesses to receive a decision as to whether their application has been approved, although the actual receipt of funds will depend on the amount of time it takes for the Department of Administration to release a check and whether the business belongs to the first or second round of grants.

            No other restrictions were shared.

Regarding the long lines at the Guam Department of Revenue and Taxation, the governor said the lines are long because of social distancing requirements and she hasn’t heard any complaints about long wait times.

            “There are some people who wrote me an email thanking me for their very quick, efficient and caring service,” she said.


In other news:

New public health regs coming, Guam airport prepping for returning residents, tourists
            According to the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, Guam, new regulations for returning residents will be released on May 22.

            At a legislative informational hearing today – May 19 in Guam, the news of “humanitarian” considerations was discussed, such as a sick relative. “These are going to be addressed in new public health protocols,” Ada said.

            Currently arrivals must undergo quarantine of some form, either in a hotel or at home, but “humanitarian” regulations are now being considered.

            Currently arrivals are not assessed at the airport. Whether they will be assessed at the airport or outside of it is still not certain.

            To do that at the airport, Ada said, “We would still need public health trained people. We may have to contract out those services.”

            In the meantime, for departing passengers, airport plans are to reduce the number of entry points into the airport and for thermal screening, and for increased security at check-in and the gates. Sneeze guards will arrive within two to three weeks and thermal equipment is on order and will arrive within three weeks.

            “For arriving passengers, Ada said the airport is installing sneeze guards and sanitizing of high touchpoints such as seats and doors and will mark off social distancing distances.

            “TSA is doing their part,” Ada said, with sneeze guards and bins being sanitized.

            As to testing of international travelers, their lab results have to be approved by the World Health Organization.

             The airport will look at refinancing its bonds to take advantage of lower interest rates – and how its debt ratio would be affected, as well as its finances. “Within the next couple of weeks, we hope to come up with other relief options,” Executive Manager Thomas C. Ada said.

            “Concessions probably comprise about 40% of our revenue,” he said. Many leases were due for renewal he said, but an outcome on the Lotte lease was holding those up. That would have an impact on leases, he said. Also, lease payments have been deferred for 90 days. If lease payments were not received, they might be written off as receivables, he said. “We hope it doesn’t come to that,” he said.

            As to other tenants he said, “Customs & Quarantine will certainly be negatively impacted.” Revenue that pays their rent comes from passenger charges. Sen. James Moylan shared at the hearing that the department was already down $5.6 million in revenues.

            Ada said, “They will probably be needing a lot more subsidies from the general fund.”

            As far as staff levels, to increase from the current 60%, Ada said, “If we were to bring everybody in today, it would cost $250,000 extra.”

            Ada said that at least one Korean-based airport will be starting up again. “Today we did receive notice from one – Jeju Air that they intend to resume operations in July.” In general, Ada said, “We want to be standing ready for when those travels begin.


Payless update on shortages
            As the result of a front-page photo and item on shortages at Pay-Less Markets, and other island stores, concerned Journal readers contacted the Guam grocery chain, particularly concerned about the mention of beef.

            Katherine R. Calvo, president of Pay-Less, told the paper on May 18, “Many of the meat related issues are at the production plants.

Beef is by far having most of the issues in comparison to pork or poultry. We have seen drastic increases in the price of U.S. beef for the past few weeks.”

However, she said, “Because of resourceful buying, Pay-Less has been able to maintain our prices and inventory levels on beef.” In addition, Calvo said, “We have found alternative sources to purchase beef in order to keep our prices down.”


Guam dine-in scheduled for May 25
            After the May 18 news conference, Gov. Lourdes A Leon Guerrero’s office clarified yesterday evening that the tentative date for dine-in restaurants to re-open is May 25, with permitted occupancy still at 50%.  May 21 is actually the date she expects to receive regulations from the Guam Department of Public Health, her office said.

             Some restaurants had already re-opened in anticipation as news of an upcoming re-opening informally made its way round the island and to the Journal.